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Judge fines NYC over protester detentions

City appeals, saying 1,100 arrests Tuesday overwhelmed system


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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A judge in Manhattan held the city of New York in contempt Thursday, saying police did not abide by his order to release more than 500 people arrested in protests this week.

The judge imposed a $1,000 fine for every person who was not released.

State Supreme Court Judge John Cataldo had initially ordered that 560 people, rounded up in demonstrations surrounding the Republican National Convention, be released or made ready for arraignment by 5 p.m. Thursday.

Later, Cataldo imposed sanctions after ruling that the city had failed to comply with his order. Cataldo rejected the city's argument that it was doing everything it could to expedite the releases.

New York was overwhelmed when more than 1,100 protesters were arrested Tuesday and the judge "was wrong not to permit the city sufficient time to complete the processing of arrestees," attorney Michael Cardozo said.

"The city believes these fines are not warranted on the facts of this case and will consider its legal options when they are assessed," he said.

It was not immediately clear how many of the detainees remained in custody. Law enforcement sources said about 350 people were released Thursday.

Clare Norrins, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, said hundreds of people were still in custody and are not scheduled to be arraigned.

Many of the arrested had spent more than 38 hours in custody, despite a legal guideline recommending that anyone arrested for a minor violation during the convention be released or arraigned within 24 hours.

One person had been in custody for 58 hours, said Colin Starger, a volunteer attorney with the lawyers association.

Attorneys with the Legal Aid Society said most of 595 people detained at central booking in downtown Manhattan are being held for minor violations, while more serious offenders, including some arrested Wednesday for shoplifting, have already been released.

"There is no good reason they had to wait this long," said Michele Maxian, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society. "The courts were ready and able to arraign protesters, but the courtrooms are empty."

Lawyers have criticized the indiscriminate nature of the arrests.

"They would just round up groups with these orange, plastic nets and arrest many innocent people in the process, including members of the press, people going to the movies, shoppers coming out of stores and businessmen going home from work," Maxian said.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stood by the police department.

"You have to take fingerprints, you have to establish identities. Sometimes people don't want to tell you who they are and it just takes a while to go through the normal process. But given that we arrested four times the normal number on one day, I think that we have done a pretty good job," he said.

Andre 3000, half of the hip-hop duo OutKast, who came to New York to make a documentary about voter registration, was awaiting the release of two crew members who were arrested Tuesday.

"They were on the street and they were filming protesters. The police came over and they ... gave them a couple of directions to scoot to the side," Andre said. "And they did everything police said and actually the policeman said, 'No, this is not an arrest, you're not getting locked up,' and two or three minutes later, then they started to say, 'Get down on the ground.' And they put these plastic things on people's hands ... and they shipped them off."

Protesters arrested during Bush speech

President Bush's speech Thursday night was briefly interrupted by war protesters who made their way to the convention floor but were quickly hauled away by security personnel.

Andrea Buffa, a spokeswoman for an antiwar activist group, said four Code Pink supporters -- including one whose son was killed in Iraq -- interrupted Bush's speech.

There was no immediate comment from authorities.

Earlier Thursday, approximately 150 protesters chanting, "Fight AIDS, not Iraq," staged a brief demonstration near Grand Central Terminal's Information Booth before police moved in to make arrests.

An organizer, Michael Kink, said, "We're trying to make a point about compassion and AIDS. We have less resources than we did four years ago."

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police said 20 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

The protest began at 8:05 a.m. when a man strode into the middle of the terminal's concourse and blew a whistle, signaling other demonstrators to pour into the hall from its various entrances.

Police quickly removed two banners that were unfurled at two staircases on opposite ends of the terminal and began making arrests.

Authorities told CNN on Wednesday that almost 1,800 people have been arrested in convention-related protests since last week.

Charges in officer beating

A 19-year-old man has been charged in connection with the beating of a detective during a demonstration Monday night near Madison Square Garden, site of the Republican National Convention.

According to the Manhattan District Attorney's office, Jamal Holiday was charged with second-degree assault, attempted second-degree assault and obstruction of governmental administration.

Holiday was arraigned Wednesday night in Manhattan Criminal Court by Judge Patricia Nunez. His bail was set at $50,000 and he is expected back in court on Friday.

A police official said the detective is recovering at home.

CNN's Rose Arce and Jonathan Wald contributed to this report.


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